We have been away again, this time to Sri Lanka, and there will be an update soon, but disaster struck when I came home, and I appear to have lost many of the wonderful images I took, we shall have to wait and see what happens.
It was very hot and humid when we were away, so it has been nice to enjoy wall to wall sunshine these last few days without the oppressive heat. Today was the first opportunity to get out and see what has progressed since before we went away, so as I set off along Lymington Bottom in the late afternoon it was with some good expectations.
The road sides are now covered in Field Mouse Ear, the delicate petals all spread wide in the afternoon sunshine.
Along Brislands, a single Buzzard was flying back and forth calling as it did so. As it flew over you could hear the alarm calls of the small birds in the hedgerow and bushes.
Chiffchaff were singing all along the lane, but it wasn't until I reached the big willows before the lane opens up to the fields that I managed to find one in the open. It would alternate its time between singing and catching insects at the top of the tree.
The footpath at the entrance to the wood continues to change. There is much more green now as the leaves emerge, this has always been one of the best places to find an early singing Blackcap, but this year they appear to be very quiet.
I walked on the outside of the wood disturbing Peacock and Tortoiseshell butterflies. There was also my first Small White of the year.
I re-entered the wood and took the perimeter path through what was now a bed of Bluebells. In fifteen days the flowers have emerged to a point where I would estimate they are about 50% out. Nevertheless it provides a spectacular sight.
As ever there are plenty of photographic opportunities as the flowers spread out beneath the Hazel trees.
I continued to walk along the path, and was pleased to hear one of my favourite songs in the distance. It was that of the Willow Warbler, and despite the fact that the bird tried its best to avoid me, I did manage to get this image of it as it flitted about in the branches.
There were in fact two birds present.
As well as the Bluebells the trees are looking superb as their fresh new leaves begin the appear. The different colours of green providing a lovely back drop to the blues of the bluebells. These flowers on a Willow tree caught my eye back lit by the evening sunshine.
The path takes you close to the edge of the wood, and I again heard a familiar song from out over the field. The song consists of twitters and warbles, and heralds the return of this charismatic summer visitor. I looked out across the field and could see four birds making their way north.
Coming out at the west end I scanned the fields. I could hear another Buzzard but never located it. As I walked to the paddocks I noticed that there was another impressive patch of Bluebells out, and made my way back into the wood to get some more pictures.
I intended to walk through the paddocks and then up Andrew Lane, reaching the first style I could hear the bleats of sheep and lambs in the distance. With the rape now in flower the view across to the south was beautiful.
I continued to scan the skies as I walked on. There was very little moving. Looking to the north at Old Down, the extent of the winter forestry work can be seen, where there was once a wall of trees, there is now a large amount of visible sky.
The paddocks have had some new arrivals, and I could hear them bleating away. One little lamb caught my eye as it was almost pure black. At first it would not leave it's mother's side.
But then it became braver, and went for a hop and a skip before stopping to check just exactly where Mum was.
I started to walk up Andrews Lane expecting to see Swallows, but they were not about. As i reached the stables though I heard the familiar twitter, and looked up to find six birds flying around. As ever they are a photographic challenge as they twist and turn, but this I think was not a bad effort.
Whenever I walk Andrews Lane I have the same approach. Just past the stables there is a gate on the right that opens into a field. The hedge along side it, and the fences seem to me a good spot for a migrant, so I always check. As I looked this time I saw my first Orange Tip butterfly of the year. This time of year they are very fast, and difficult to pin down. Look carefully in the photograph and you will see a small blur of orange and white.
From the gate on the right, I then turn my attention to the paddocks on the left. The grassy field fall away from the path, and then rise again in the distance, there is a rabbit warren and plenty of cropped grass with fences and posts all around. It reminds me of the Shire from the Hobbit, and I have always approached it with high expectation of a Wheatear, Chat or even maybe a Hoopoe! But up to now the best has been a Green woodpecker on a post.
Today as I approached the fence I could see a bull in the field, and a pair of Magpies, but one seemed smaller, and the while patch was different. A closer look revealed that at last the Shire had delivered, a superb male Ring Ouzel feeding on the short grass at the back of one of the paddocks. It was distant, but there is no doubting the bird from these images.
The white crescent around the neck was clearly visible as was the pale white patch on the primaries. It moved around the paddock, digging into the grass, and coming a little closer.
This is the peak time for Ring Ouzels as they move north to the hill and mountain terrain where they breed. It has been a while since I have had such good views, I have seen them in Wales and Scotland recently, but very fleeting views.
The name "Ouzel" is said to come from the old English word "osle" meaning blackbird, and this is related to the German word for the Blackbird "Amsel". I watched it for a little longer then decided to carry on leaving it there in the paddock.
As I walked up the path a pair of Marsh Tits were in the hedgerow alongside the path. I always check these carefully as I did find a Willow Tit in this area a couple of years ago, but the calls from these two birds left no doubt they were Marsh.
My walk then took me along the top of the path beside the field. Chiffchaff sang, but that was about all. I made my way back down the path towards Swellinghill. I flushed a pair of Song Thrush that probably had a nest close by, and a little further on there were three Dunnocks that were probably up to no good chasing each other through the bracken and bramble.
By the large white house Four Swallows flew around the buildings and out over the field. These are definitely resident birds returned for the summer.
Reaching the road I walked to the pond where another Chiffchaff was singing, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed on one opf the dead trees at the back of the pond. Around the picnic area a pair of Great Tits were calling to each other.
I still wonder if I missed the height of the Toad spawning, there were signs of spawn, but never in the amounts of previous years. This is all gone now and if you look carefully you can see tadpoles.
Leaving the pond I walked on towards Kitwood, and then took the footpath across the field and into Old Down. The field has green shoots transforming it from the wasteland it appeared as during the winter.
As I approached the wood the new leaves on the Silver Birch close to the edge of the wood were being highlighted and back lit by the dropping evening sun, this produced a wonderful image of greens and golden yellows.
The Winter storms wreaked havoc through the wood with many trees now blown down. However as the sap moves and the leaves and blossom develops, it is clear that while they may have fallen from the horizontal, they are still very much alive as leaves and even blossom emerges from these fallen giants creating a whole new different ecosystem for the birds and insects.
I made my way around the perimeter and then out towards Gradwell lane. Ahead of me four Swallows flew around the horse stables, more residents returning. In the conifer trees at the end of the path a pair of Magpies chattered away to each other at the top of the tree.
I made my way home after what had proved to be a successful walk. A new bird for the patch, taking me every closer to the magic 100, three left now! In addition good Swallow numbers and two Willow Warbler plus an Orange Tip and Small White. Over the last two years I have put in a lot of time and miles to understand this patch, and I feel now that I have a good understanding, and the areas that I feel are suitable for certain species seems to be coming to fruition. I might not have the rivers, lakes, or estuaries that can deliver special birds, but when I find something here it is special, and a reward for the effort. As I walked back home I had a big smile, a lovely way to spend two and a half hours